Sunday, 7 June 2020

Mixed Fortunes

Following on from the pictures in my last post taken in my garden, I snapped a few more this past week. First up was another fly, that I think I have identified to the family Micropezidae or Stilt-legged Flies. There are about 500 species of this fly worldwide, with nine species in Britain. A characteristic of them is that their fore legs are markedly smaller than the other pairs. Unfortunately, I couldn't identify it to species, but if there is anybody reading this that can, then I would love to hear from you, and similarly if it isn't a species of Stilt-legged Fly, then please also let me know!

 Stilt-legged Fly sp. (above & below).

I have mentioned my mini-meadow in my garden numerous times on this Blog, and instead of a lawn we have a small meadow. And it is small, probably just about 20 square metres or 0.002 ha! We sowed 27 species of wildflowers and five species of grasses as follows; Yarrow, Common Knapweed, Greater Knapweed, Wild Carrot, Hedge Bedstraw, Lady's Bedstraw, Field Scabious, Rough Hawkbit, Oxeye Daisy, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Wild Marjoram, Hoary Plantain, Salad Burnet, Cowslip, Selfheal, Meadow Buttercup, Bulbous Buttercup, Yellow Rattle, Sorrel, Red Campion, Ragged Robin, Meadowsweet, Bladder Campion, Tufted Vetch, Common Bent, Crested Dogstail, Slender Creeping Red Fescue and Smaller Cat's-tail.

 Tufted Vetch in our mini-meadow.

We went for a general-purpose mix as I had no idea what the soil type was, as I had to bring some top-soil in to create the meadow. A few of the species never showed, and a few have now disappeared, but out of the 32 species, 27 still show every year!

I had a bird survey to do for work earlier in the week, and it was fairly close to home on some fairly un-interesting relatively intensive grassland, with a mix of good and not-so-good hedges. However, as I am fond of saying there is always something of interest to record. The first bird I recorded, and sadly didn't get any pictures of, is a common woodland species that was a little out of context here, and that was a Jay. There is a distinct lack of woodland in this area, so I'm not sure where it had come from. I saw it 'feeding' on the road, and can only assume it was either picking up grit, or perhaps invertebrates.

Warblers were thin on the ground with just a couple of singing Whitethroats and a Blackcap singing in the distance. When I was stood having a coffee, a single Oystercatcher flew over me alarm-calling, but I didn't think it was alarm-calling at me, and then I noticed a dog Fox slipping by!

I've got a feeling that Greenfinches have perhaps had a good breeding season this year, as I have been recording more birds singing at various survey sites, and I have been seeing a few juvenile birds as well, and today was no exception with at least four juvenile birds knocking about.

 There was plenty of Cow Parsely and Red Campion along the verges of the 
lane that formed part of my survey route, and I loved the contrasting 

Gail and I were a little apprehensive when we went to complete our final check for the summer of our Pied Flycatcher boxes in the Hodder Valley in Bowland, as the weather over the past 4 or 5 days has been quite cold and wet. After we made our final check by mid-morning, I would say that the headline that would sum it up was 'mixed fortunes'.

We ringed 14 Pied Flycatcher chicks, but that was three broods; 5, 3 and 6. The box with the brood of three contained three dead chicks. The broods of five and six, had seven last week, so the adults have certainly struggled to find food. Or, some of them have, because we had three boxes with large healthy broods of seven that we ringed last week, that were about to fledge. We also had four boxes where they had all fledged successfully i.e. a flat nest in an empty box!

 Pied Flycatcher chick.

This got me thinking about whether there is any correlation between the age of adult Pied Flycatchers (more experienced birds), and the success of the breeding attempt. I would guess that there is, but I would need to have a look at our results over the years and crunch a few numbers to find out.

As Gail is retiring later this year, she very kindly offered to input all the information from the boxes since we started this particular scheme some 17 years ago onto a spreadsheet, so we can hopefully answer this question, and look at other interesting results the data might provide. Needless to say, I snapped her hand off, and how lucky am I to have a wife who would do that for me. Gail you're the best!

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